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ChatChat - Claudia Cragg

Dec 28, 2011

In this interview, KGNU’s Claudia Cragg speaks with Thrity Umrigar about her latest novel, ‘The Space Between Us’. In this, “Umrigar illustrates India’s national identity crisis over the past 40 years through four friends who reconnect in this absorbing novel. Divorcée Armaiti is living in America with a daughter at Harvard when she’s given six months to live. Her last wish is to see her three best friends again—Laleh, Kavita, and Nishta, all in Bombay. In college, as idealistic Communists, they’d been inseparable, but now they’re barely in touch. Kavita is a successful architect, Laleh a wife and mother, and none of them have heard from Nishta in years. When they finally find her beneath a burkha in a strict Muslim neighborhood, it becomes clear that Nishta’s husband, Iqbal, a fellow university idealist turned fundamentalist, will be the biggest obstacle to fulfilling Armaiti’s final desire. Umrigar is never shy in her portrayal of a divided India, deftly pinpointing major issues facing the country today and tracing them through a legacy of cultural death and rebirth. Armaiti’s ruminations on unexpectedly encountering the end of one’s life and Kavita’s struggle to live openly as a lesbian despite supportive friends act as strong secondary narratives. Though none of the major story elements Umrigar employs are remotely fresh, her characters make this a rewarding novel.” – Publishers’ Weekly, Jan. 2012

Umrigar was born in Mumbai and emigrated to the US when she was 21. She is a journalist and novelist of, as well as the novel under discussion here, Bombay Time, and The Weight of Heaven. She has written for the Washington PostCleveland Plain Dealer, among other newspapers, and regularly writes for The Boston Globe's book pages. She is currently assistant professor of English at Case Western Reserve University where she teaches creative writing and literature. She was a winner of the Nieman Fellowship to Harvard University. She has a Ph.D. in English and lives in Cleveland,Ohio.

Photo: copyright Jeannette Palsa (used with kind permission).